You’re excused if you have a mental picture of Tuscany that includes a little nap in the heat of the day, post-Chianti lunch. It absolutely happens. It should even be encouraged. Tuscan days laze away with no trouble at all.

But the reality for most people that travel to Tuscany is that you don’t have unlimited dolce vita time in your schedule. That can call for a little time management – not because you want to run on a too-tight schedule, but because you want to avoid the timetable that the tourists are on.

San Gimignano is a case in point. This golden hilltown and its outlandish cluster of medieval towers is a sight to behold. In fact, most days it seems like every visitor to this part of Italy has hopped a morning motorcoach to behold it at precisely the same moment. It’s a scene that can easily cancel out the Tuscan vibe you’re looking for.

San Gimignano

When you travel to Tuscany, try this instead. Spend a morning walking in the vineyards. The views are incredible. Any other humanity you’re likely to spot will be workers tying up tendrils or snipping at the clusters to concentrate the flavor of the grapes. Villas and castles are tucked into the hills. Maybe lunch at one of those castles? A glass of aged “barrique” wine? It would be impolite to refuse. Anyway, you’ll soon be stretched out by the pool at your villa-hotel to recover for an hour or two.

So far, it’s been an utterly excellent Tuscan day, and it’s about to get even better. Back in San Gimignano, the tired tourists are clustering at the coaches, ready to chug back to Florence. This is your signal to head for town. By late afternoon, those towers are soaking up and reflecting the sunlight. Their long, cool shadows sweep slowly across quiet cobbled streets. Because your timing is so good, you really experience San Gimignano, wander at will and linger over dinner at a local trattoria.

San Gimignano’s medieval skyline glows in the quiet of a late afternoon.